Search results for: sclerochronology

Sclerochronology: Playing Back the Recordings of Life

March 1st, 2006

By Douglas S. Jones and Irvy R. Quitmyer

Sclerochronology is the study of astronomical cycles recorded in the hard tissues of organisms such as the shells of mollusks and corals or the teeth and horns of mammals. It is analogous to dendrochronology, the study of annual rings in trees. Sclerochronology comes from the Greek word ‘skleros’ meaning hard and ‘chronology,’ which refers to the science of ordering events in time.

Figure 1

Figure 1

During your last trip to the beach you may have noticed the concentric rings on seashells you pulled from the sand and wondered if you could count them to determine the age of the animal (Figure 1) like you would tree rings. In the third century B.C., Aristotle realized the same possibility. In his Historia Animalium he writes, “Both the murex and the creyx (trumpet-shell) are long lived. The murex lives for about six years; and the yearly increase is indicated by a distinct interval in the spiral convolution of the shell.” This is among the earliest speculations that hard parts of aquatic organisms record life history and environmental information. (more…)